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Zorro

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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,363

Journal Archives

Impeachment Taught Trump All the Wrong Lessons

He thinks he can get away with anything.

Following the presentation of evidence in President Trump’s Senate trial, Senator Susan Collins argued that the president did not need to be removed from office because he has learned a “pretty big lesson” from his impeachment. The president did in fact learn lessons from his impeachment and acquittal, but all the wrong lessons, which he since has been applying in misleading the American people about the catastrophic pandemic, and exacerbating its devastating impact.

Mr. Trump was impeached because when confronted with an urgent crisis that threatened the security of our country — Russia’s hostile invasion of Ukraine — he put his personal and political interests over the interests of the country. He refused to protect the American people by releasing previously approved and desperately needed military aid for our vital ally unless that country agreed to help his re-election by announcing an investigation of his political rival Joe Biden.

While serving as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, I warned in my opening statement for the committee’s impeachment hearings that if the president got away with what he did, “our imagination is the only limit to what President Trump may do next.” Those concerns have unfortunately proved prescient, as the lesson Mr. Trump apparently learned from his Senate acquittal is that he could once again get away with putting his personal and political interests over the safety of the American people when confronted with an even more dire crisis.

The parallels are striking and, as with all recidivists, are particularly important for what they reveal about the president’s motives, intent and modus operandi. In other words, we have seen this movie before.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/19/opinion/trump-impeachment-coronavirus.html

Trump, Head of Government, Leans Into Antigovernment Message

With his poll numbers fading after a rally-around-the-leader bump, the president is stoking protests against stay-at-home orders.

First he was the self-described “wartime president.” Then he trumpeted the “total” authority of the federal government. But in the past few days, President Trump has nurtured protests against state-issued stay-at-home orders aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.

Hurtling from one position to another is consistent with Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency over the past three years. Even when external pressures and stresses appear to change the dynamics that the country is facing, Mr. Trump remains unbowed, altering his approach for a day or two, only to return to nursing grievances.

Not even the president’s re-election campaign can harness him: His team is often reactive to his moods and whims, trying but not always succeeding in steering him in a particular direction. Now, with Mr. Trump’s poll numbers falling after a rally-around-the-leader bump, he is road-testing a new turn on a familiar theme — veering into messages aimed at appealing to Americans whose lives have been disrupted by the stay-at-home orders.

Whether his latest theme will be effective for him is an open question: In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, just 36 percent of voters said they generally trusted what Mr. Trump says about the coronavirus.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/us/politics/trump-coronavirus.html

Earnings are set for their biggest dive since late 2009 -- and it gets worse from here

The S&P 500 index is set to suffer the worst quarter for earnings since the 2008 financial crisis, and it’s likely to get a lot worse because the results due this week will barely show the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 9% of S&P 500 companies reported earnings through Friday and after the first official week of 2020 first-quarter results earnings are on track to decline 14.5% from a year ago, according to John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet. That would be the biggest decline since the 15.7% plunge in the third quarter of 2009.

Butters’s projections are based on blended estimates compiled by FactSet, which include actual results and consensus analyst estimates of companies that haven’t reported yet.

The bad news is that actual results have been a lot worse than expected so far, as earnings for the 46 companies that have already reported dropped 32.7%, according to FactSet.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/earnings-are-set-for-their-biggest-dive-since-late-2009-and-it-gets-worse-from-here-2020-04-19

Bernie Sanders: The Foundations of American Society Are Failing Us

We are the richest country in the history of the world, but at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, that reality means little to half of our people who live paycheck to paycheck, the 40 million living in poverty, the 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, and the half million who are homeless.

In the midst of the twin crises that we face — the coronavirus pandemic and the meltdown of our economy — it’s imperative that we re-examine some of the foundations of American society, understand why they are failing us, and fight for a fairer and more just nation.

The absurdity and cruelty of our employer-based, private health insurance system should now be apparent to all. As tens of millions of Americans are losing their jobs and incomes as a result of the pandemic, many of them are also losing their health insurance. That is what happens when health care is seen as an employee benefit, not a guaranteed right. As we move forward beyond the pandemic, we need to pass legislation that finally guarantees health care to every man, woman and child — available to people employed or unemployed, at every age.

The pandemic has also made clear the irrationality of the current system. Unbelievably, in the midst of the worst health care crisis in modern history, thousands of medical workers are being laid off and many hospitals and clinics are on the verge of going bankrupt and shutting down. In truth, we don’t have a health care “system.” We have a byzantine network of medical institutions dominated by the profit-making interests of insurance and drug companies. The goal of a new, long-overdue health care system, Medicare for All, must be to provide health care to all, in every region of the country — not billions in profits for Wall Street and the health care industry.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/19/opinion/coronavirus-inequality-bernie-sanders.html

Hold these Republicans accountable for deaths caused by recklessness

President Trump tweeted a series of all-caps messages Friday that Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota —states with responsible stay-at-home orders — should “LIBERATE" themselves. It’s not clear whether this was a suggestion for armed insurrection, as his Virginia tweet referenced the Second Amendment, or simply a grossly irresponsible call for Americans to congregate in protests at a time when large gatherings risk infection spread and possibly more deaths. Either way, by encouraging violation of state measures to fight the pandemic, Trump abandoned his position of a day earlier, when he declared that governors should call their own shots. Trump was already morally responsible for the lost lives that could have been saved by prompt action to combat the coronavirus. He has no national plan to ramp up testing, which is critical to safe reopening. He should be held accountable for endangering those people encouraged by his irresponsible tweets.

Trump is not the only Republican who must be held accountable. Without ample testing, governors do not know how widely the virus has spread, the true infection rate or the risks posed by relaxing stay-at-home orders. None of that appears to bother Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who initially delayed closing beaches statewide. “Florida’s governor on Friday gave the green light for some beaches and parks to reopen if it can be done safely,” the Associated Press reports, “and north Florida beaches became among the first to allow people to return since closures because of the coronavirus. [Jacksonville] Mayor Lenny Curry said Duval County beaches were reopening Friday afternoon with restricted hours, and they can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.”

How are local officials and ordinary people to know what is safe? Absent widespread, reliable testing, we have to wait until cases spike, hospital admissions soar and more deaths are recorded. There not only isn’t data showing whether it’s safe to go back out, but also some indicators suggest this is a poor time to lift restrictions. According to news reports, more Florida residents were diagnosed Friday than in any time during the past two weeks. The state Department of Health on Friday reported 1,413 new cases of covid-19, the highest number since 1,330 people tested positive on April 3.

The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, also is rolling the dice. While Abbott plans to keep schools closed through the end of this academic year, he issued executive orders allowing retail stores to open next Friday “to operate retail to-go.” State parks are set to reopen even sooner, though visitors will be required to cover their faces and maintain a distance of six feet from non-family members, and groups of more than five will not be permitted. Texas’s ban on elective surgery will also be loosened. Overall, the numbers of cases and deaths in Texas have been modest compared with those in some states, but there are thousands of cases in Texas’s more populous counties (Harris, which includes Houston; Dallas; and Travis, which includes Austin). What’s the infection rate in these counties? Unclear. And that’s because — you guessed it — we don’t have extensive testing. And the country does not have widespread testing because Trump refuses to do his job. (“With the number of the covid-19 tests hovering at an average of 146,000 a day," The Post reported Friday, "businesses leaders and state officials are warning the Trump administration that they cannot safely reopen the economy without radically increasing the number of available tests — perhaps into the millions a day — and that won’t happen without a greater coordinating role by the federal government.”)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/19/hold-these-republicans-accountable-deaths-caused-by-recklessness/

Rural areas think they're the coronavirus exception. They're not.

Under fire for her refusal to impose a statewide lockdown order, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem impatiently told reporters, “South Dakota is not New York City, and our sense of personal responsibility, our resiliency and our already sparse population density put us in a great position to manage this virus.”

It’s a common enough sentiment on the right, and often stated less politely; Sean Davis of the Federalist complained in late March that locking down the country amounted to saying “states and cities that have had no problem stopping the spread must nonetheless be shut down indefinitely because New York City is a filthy, disease-ridden dystopia run by an incompetent communist.”

This attitude engenders understandable resentment among beleaguered New Yorkers. But there is something to the rural exceptionalism story, some reason to believe that covid-19 might spread more slowly in rural areas than it does in dense cities. People who live in large, well-ventilated homes with more than one room per person, shop in airy grocery stores with mile-wide lanes, and drive to work in a private vehicle rather than crowding onto public transit with hundreds of strangers might well have fewer opportunities for exposure than your typical New Yorker does.

That said, a slow-motion disaster is still a disaster. And human beings are geniuses at inventing false reasons to feel secure.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rural-areas-think-theyre-the-coronavirus-exception-theyre-not/2020/04/16/d488b800-8028-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html

First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance.

Gary Easley was worried as he took a bus to the pharmacy at West Virginia Health Right, a free clinic that has stood for decades in Charleston, W.Va. Normally, he goes to Walgreens and Kroger to get the nine prescriptions he relies on for his high blood pressure and high cholesterol, diabetes and mood swings, leg pain and lung trouble.

But three weeks before — on March 17, the day West Virginia would become the last state to confirm its first coronavirus case — Easley was summoned to the general manager’s office at the Four Points by Sheraton at 9:30 a.m. His job of five years as the hotel’s morning-shift chef, he was told, was ending in a half-hour. His health benefits ended two weeks later.

Easley, out of a job and out of a health plan, and Health Right, swamped with new patients, represent a ripple effect of the novel coronavirus sweeping the United States. In a nation where most health coverage is hinged to employment, the economy’s vanishing jobs are wiping out insurance in the midst of a pandemic.

No one has a count of exactly how many people have lost their health plans, but there are clues. About 22 million workers have filed unemployment claims since mid-March, according to the most recent federal figures, and that includes only the people who have gotten through to clogged state workforce offices. The latest census data show that job-based coverage accounted for 55 percent of Americans’ health insurance, though the kinds of work disappearing the most — restaurant jobs and others in the service industry — have always been less likely to offer health benefits.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html

Americans don't need a lesson in financial literacy. The Trump administration does.

Earlier this week, a video of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaking on “Face the Nation” late last month began making the rounds. Mnuchin seemed to imply that the government’s current financial support system — the temporary boost to unemployment benefits, the small business lending program and the $1,200 stimulus check — would be enough to tide American families over until the coronavirus pandemic crisis passed.

This is all ludicrously, offensively inaccurate. But lucky for us, April is Financial Literacy Month. It’s the perfect opportunity to teach Mnuchin — and the rest of the Trump administration — a few realities about the finances of everyday Americans.

There are at least 22 million people who lost their jobs within the past month — and that’s what we know of. Antiquated state unemployment systems cannot keep up with the demand. And despite the fact that gig workers are supposed to be covered — for the first time ever — the Trump administration’s Labor Department is attempting to issue regulations to get around that directive. “We want workers to have work, not to become dependent on the unemployment system,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Small Business Administration head Jovita Carranza wrote in an op-ed published by Fox Business (where else?) this week.

No surprise, thousands upon thousands of people are lining up at food banks, desperately seeking help — and the cost of staples such as eggs is soaring. Food banks, in turn, are increasingly concerned about running out of food, money or both. Meanwhile, the Trump administration needed to be publicly shamed into backing off an attempt to impose work requirements on food stamp recipients, even as jobs have disappeared.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/17/americans-dont-need-lesson-financial-literacy-trump-administration-does/

Those who have inherited great wealth and those who have made their own fortunes really have little clue about the financial stresses on the average American family.

Record government and corporate debt risks 'tipping point' after pandemic passes

The United States is embarking on a rapid-fire experiment in borrowing without precedent, as the government and corporations take on trillions of dollars of debt to offset the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government is on its way this year to spending nearly $4 trillion more than it collects in revenue, analysts say, a budget deficit roughly twice as large relative to the economy as in any year since 1945.

Business borrowing also is setting records. Giant corporations such as ExxonMobil and Walgreens, which binged on debt over the past decade, now are exhausting their credit lines and tapping bondholders for even more cash.

To support such borrowing, the Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to zero and added more than $2 trillion of loans to its portfolio in the past six weeks — as much as in the four years following the Great Recession.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/04/18/record-government-corporate-debt-risk-tipping-point-after-pandemic-passes/

Government is everywhere now. Where does it go next?

Americans are experiencing the biggest expansion of government authority in generations as elected leaders take unprecedented action to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The role of government has changed overnight, in ways no one imagined as this election year began. Despite a broad consensus behind this emergency surge in government spending and power, a huge debate over what government does and should do lies ahead.

That battle will be waged on terms that could be far different from those that existed before the pandemic — terms that have held sway since President Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington four decades ago determined to put advocates of a vigorous government on the defensive for the first time since the New Deal.

The pandemic has exposed crippling weaknesses in the federal government and troubling vulnerabilities in society that will be more difficult to ignore when the crisis begins to ease. For the first time, many Americans are looking to government for their very economic survival. In time, that could make them look at government differently.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/politics/pandemic-government-role/
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